Monday, September 27, 2010

How To Be Alone: Reviews!

In the comments to my last post, someone posted a link to the video "How to Be Alone". One thing I liked about the video was that it talked about doing things alone as a skill anyone can build using small steps (the video suggests starting in the bathroom-- we've all peed alone, haven't we?). I agree that the ability to do things alone is an important one, and not just for single people. I'm not always great at it myself, but I'm hoping that with time, I'll improve. So I wanted to open up a discussion of ridin' solo with my personal reviews of some standard "alone" activities, most of which were mentioned in the video. I'm using two ratings: Enjoyability, where a 10 would be enlightenment or "I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!" and a 1 would be watching Youtube videos buffer. And awkwardness/anxiety, where a 1 would be gazing at a sleeping kitten, and a 10 would be nearing a panic attack. So, onward!

Reading a book in the park.

Enjoyability: 8
A/A: 2
I have a pretty bad memory for books, which might be one of the reasons I feel compelled to write about them. But parks are another story. Being alone is no big deal here, since I find both reading and being outside can make me feel content. Sometimes low-stress activities are the best. Just be sure to pick an engrossing book and a good park for your first time.

Enjoyability: 6
A/A: 4
Going to movies alone was what convinced me I was the only person in America who saw "Hustle and Flow". It's not as scary as it may seem, because it's dark and you can get absorbed in the movie. The downside is that you don't have anyone to discuss the movie with. If you haven't yet done this, try seeing an early showing of an independent film. The theater will be pretty empty, and there will be other people there by themselves (probably because their friends, like yours, didn't want to see yet another plotless wonder).

Enjoyability: 5
A/A: 5
The final frontier to some isn't that frightening once you've done it a few times. I mostly just find eating alone to be boring, and it's something I would do out of necessity (ie, I'm out alone and hungry) than for fun. First time? Some restaurants are more amenable to people eating alone than others. Try a somewhat casual place that isn't very crowded. If you were in San Francisco, I would suggest Ananda Fuara at dinner, where I would always see quite a few people eating alone.

Concert, aka "Show".

Enjoyability: 7, but depends on how good the show is.
A/A: 6
Awkwardness and boredom during set breaks is the issue here, as well as lack of post-show discussion. But it would be a shame to miss a good show just because no one else is feeling it. Once I went to a show with a friend, and we were standing near a woman who was by herself. During the set breaks, she would take out a small flashlight and read a book about music. I still remember that because whenever I see someone alone and rolling it with, I always think that person's pretty badass. If you're alone and feel awkward, you never know, maybe people are wishing they had your courage.

Going Out Dancing.
Enjoyability: ???
A/A: 9
This one was in the video, but I've never actually done it. And I can't say I want to. Dance events being a common place to get hit on is just one reason I'd be uncomfortable with this. Sure, if you're dancing in a crowd, no one will know you're alone. But I can't get over a few things that to me, just seem totally unfun alone. Going to a bar also falls into this category.

Enjoyability: 6-10
A/A: 3-7
I know this is a tricky one for a lot of people. Traveling alone has its advantages, but it can also get tedious and there can be safety issues. It will encompass many different situations that you will have to do alone, about which your comfort level will vary. While I've never traveled totally alone for more than 2 days, I've spent some time on trips by myself. My main concern is what to do after dark. During the day, there are always museums and outdoor stuff, which often I enjoy solo. But at night, there's all the stuff I don't like to do alone: Restaurants, bars, dancing, etc. What might help with this is to do advance research for nightlife I wouldn't mind doing, like special movies or museums that are open late (I love me some museums!). There's also the possibility of meeting up with other people in the place you travel to. I've met AVENites in New York and Portland, and I have college friends in some random places. If you're not asexual, there's always Couchsurfers, who according to the website, can act as tour guides even if you don't want to crash on random couches. Also, maybe a friend of a friend could offer to show you around. However...then you wouldn't really be alone anymore.

So what are your reviews? Any awesome alone activities we should try? Or any difficult ones that you want to work up to?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ily and the Add-Ons

It's not a new girl group, although it would be pretty awesome if it were. National Coming Out Day is approaching (October 11th) and so I've been thinking more about the whole concept lately. It's something I like to revisit periodically, since I find my views on coming out-- what I want to say, and what responses I want to get-- change over time. But one thing that still baffles me is what exactly to "do" with people who we've come out to, but who gave negative responses. Do we just pretend it didn't happen and go on? Do we distance ourselves from that person, even though they may not understand why? Do we try to win them over? There are a lot of possible scenarios, and they're all pretty awkward. I guess that at its worst, coming out may be a way to find out "who your true friends are". But is that a good thing in the long term, or is is better to just not know? I really have no answer to that.

(Me and my rhetorical questions...damn, homie.)

Occasionally I realize things in the shower, and today in the shower I realized what it was about negative coming-out responses that really bother me. And it's not the lack of understanding about asexuality. That, actually, I can kind of get. When I was first learning about asexuality, I wasn't sure that it was quite for real, either. Once it seemed weird and foreign to me, too. It also seems true that if someone didn't buy asexuality-- and that was it-- it wouldn't be a problem because they'd keep it to themselves. The bigger problem, to me, is what I'm going to call the "add-ons". And I'm starting to think that the ignorance and the add-ons should be addressed separately. I'm talking about when people don't just disregard our asexual reality, but add on rudeness, a patronizing or invasive attitude, or hostility. I feel like often, this will be the first time that we've gotten such rudeness or intrusiveness from this particular person. It can be extremely surprising and we can wonder how well we really know that person after all. While ignorant people can learn, what can be done with the the things people add on?

Like I've said before, it's common for people to have no clue how to deal with someone coming out, especially someone coming out as asexual. So I think we're completely within our rights to tell them how it should be done. We might gain a better idea how to deal with the negative responders if we comment on the add-on, not the ignorance on asexuality. Here's an example.

Bob: I'm asexual.
Jane: So were you abused as a child?
Bob: That's a pretty invasive question, don't you think?
Jane: Oh, sorry about that.
Bob: I'll e-mail you some information about asexuality, so you can check it out at your leisure. [I guess for this to work, you'd have to be the kind of person who says "at your leisure". Also, credit: Part of this idea comes from a book about coming out for vegetarians, Living Among Meat Eaters. Anyway...]
Jane: Okay, thanks.

Jane realized her gaffe and apologized, so I think it would be reasonable to forgive and move on. On the other hand, this might be what happens when you address the ignorance and ignore the add-on:

Bob: I'm asexual.
Jane: So were you abused as a child?
Bob? No, I wasn't.
Jane: Your hormones are out of whack, then?
Bob: Well--
Jane: Haven't found the right girl yet?
Bob: That's not--

...And on, and on, forever. I'm realizing that coming out can be a pretty heated moment for both people, and those can be the worst kinds of moments to educate someone. Once they know you're asexual, you have plenty of time to explain further. So I no longer think it's necessary to tell them everything about asexuality right then. My new tactic might be to drop the a-bomb, shut down any add-ons, and then e-mail them some further information, so they can interrogate their computer instead of me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

San Jose Actually Worked.

No offense to San Jose, but I was pleasantly surprised when we got a big turnout--11 people-- for our meetup there today. I thought it was fun, and there was a good mix of Apples to Apples-playing and more serious asexuality discussion. For part of the time, the large group broke into smaller groups fairly organically, which I thought worked well. For past meetups, I tried to get down a list of funny things people talked about, but this is apparently something I'm not good at doing, so I gave up. All I can remember now is that "spam" and "Detroit" are always trump cards...good to know.

If you've been reading this blog for a long time (thank you), you might recall posts where I wondered if we would ever get 10 people at a meetup. Now, for the past few meetups, we've been exceeding that number. I tend to be overly hard on myself, but I shouldn't underestimate that. It's something everyone who's participated is entitled to feel proud of. At the meetup, a few people asked why the Bay Area has so many asexuals (or some variation on that question). I tried to explain that the reason we get this many people at meetups is only because we've been having them for so long. At the first meetups I organized, it was common to only get one or two other people. I think that any area having regular meetups for (oh my gosh...) 4 years would meet or easily exceed this number. I say this just so everyone knows, it can be done.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tim Gunn is Asexual?!


Thanks to Karli for pointing out this video, in which Tim Gunn (the dude from "Project Runway" who says "make it work!" a lot) discusses his "suicidal past". It seems like this was one reason why he felt so badly during his teen years:

"For a long time, I didn't know what I was. I knew what I wasn't. I wasn't interested in boys. But I really wasn't interested in girls." He says (in a People magazine article) "I've always been kind of asexual" and "I really am happy alone", claiming that he hasn't had sex since 1982.

Well I'll be! I'm jazzed that Tim Gunn is "kind of" one of us. Obviously I don't know him, but his television persona is just so benevolent (well, except towards Gretchen). Although I'm pretty sick of Project Runway at this point, when I think about it...On "What Not to Wear", Clinton and Stacy (the hosts/fashionistas) were always talking about how "sexy" various clothing items were. Has Tim Gunn ever gushed about the sexiness of a garment? Not that I can recall. Hmm.

We're here for ya, about some invisible fashion-industry cake?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pissing in the Wind

I didn't die! Was just having internet access issues (comment moderation may be slow for the next few days). And why is August always so boring, while so much goes on in September? I don't get it. Anyway, recently Elizabeth posted about a new study of asexuality which states:

Asexuality may also be defined as an absence of sexual desire, regardless of sexual behavior. Indeed, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (“AVEN”) (Jay 2005) holds that an independence from sexual desire is the key feature of asexuality, claiming that “an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction".


Whether the primary component of asexuality is behavioral (a lack of sexual behavior), desire-based (a lack of sexual desire), or identity-based (labeling oneself as “asexual”) is debatable.

Uhh, how about "none of the above"?

And one more:

Bogaert’s (2004) nationally representative study of asexuality examined the prevalence of asexual desire in Great Britain. Drawing on a survey of 18,876 respondents in England, Wales, and Scotland, he found that approximately 1.1% of the sample indicated that they “have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all” (Bogaert 2004: 281).

You'll see that Bogaert's reference to "sexual attraction" morphs into "desire" with no explanation. As you probably know, AVEN makes no mention of sexual desire in its definition of asexuality. I share Elizabeth's frustration that the researchers would conflate "an independence from sexual desire" and "someone who does not experience sexual attraction". The researchers refer to asexuality as a lack of sexual desire many more times throughout their study. If this was one isolated incident, it might not warrant further comment. However, whether it's academia or the media, people just can't seem to stop calling asexuality a "lack of sexual desire". But why do people keep calling it this, and why does it even matter? It's more than just asexuals splitting hairs. Elizabeth got some good discussion about the study itself, so hopefully I'll be able to speak to something slightly different...

What might bother me most about calling asexuality a "lack of sexual desire" is that the definition used by most asexuals, "a person who experiences (little or) no sexual attraction" is so easy to find once you start looking into asexuality. Type "asexuality" into a search engine and you'll get AVEN first thing, where the standard definition used by asexuals is on the first page. So I'm led to believe that most people looking into asexuality know our definition, but just choose to ignore it. In the study above, our definition was acknowledged, but then subsumed into a different definition. Now, don't get me wrong, I can totally understand why someone, especially a researcher, wouldn't want to just swallow the AVEN definition. But without AVEN, it's unlikely that there would be even the minor interest in asexuality that we're currently seeing. And when people outside the asexual community make up their own definitions of asexuality, they seem to provide further vagueness rather than increased clarity. What's really confusing is that the study mentioned by Elizabeth claims to take a social constructionist approach, which to me, would suggest the opposite of basically ignoring the words a group of people uses to define themselves.

Sometimes, trying to spread the word that asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction feels like, well, pissing in the wind. Why do people keep using-- and independently coming up with-- what asexuals themselves consider a "wrong" definition? I have one theory, and apologies if it's wildly obvious. But there's a lot of ground between embracing asexuals as totally normal and thinking that we're just making it all up for attention ('cause we get such awesome attention, right?). I'm guessing that a lot of people, including some asexuals, fall somewhere in this middle area. When people use "sexual desire" as a definition, I think that they're substituting a vaguer word for a more exact one. They may be open to the idea of asexuality, but they're not yet ready to give it approval as a legit orientation. Because at least to my own ears, "sexual attraction" frames asexuality as an orientation, whereas "sexual desire" is more amorphous. So I don't think people will stop using this "sexual desire" definition until asexuality is a lot more accepted. However, understanding often leads to acceptance, and having lots of different definitions floating around doesn't help with that.

(Yet another reason it's problematic is because sexual disorders are often called "sexual desire disorders", not "sexual attraction disorders". If you don't think asexuality is a disorder, then help out the cause by not calling it a "lack of sexual desire". Again, this issue might get lost on media folks, but shouldn't be lost on researchers.)

In support of sexual desire, it seems logical that asexuals would be said not to feel it. Most people, even those well-versed in sexuality, tend to lump all sexual and romantic feelings together, using terms interchangeably. And it will take a metric fuckton (or perhaps you prefer a metric shitload) of education to change that, much more, I think, than just telling people about asexuality. But asexuals aren't totally innocent when it comes to clarity, either. On AVEN, I often see people separating "attraction" and "desire" and then using "desire" to mean sex drive or libido. People tend to have a "well, duh" attitude about this, but I don't think it's at all clear without further explanation. It might be technically correct, but it's confusing. If "sex drive" is what we mean, why not cut out the middleman and just say that? Another problem is that when we use "sexual desire" to mean sex drive, we can say "asexuals may experience sexual desire" which sounds a lot more contradictory, at least to me, than "asexuals may have a sex's just not directed at anyone".

So I'm thinking that "sexual desire" should probably be scrapped in situations where a detailed understanding of sexuality is important. While "desire" and "attraction" might be different things, all you need to do is say "Jane feels sexual desire for Bob" to have them be basically the same, at least in popular usage. If someone is using "sexual desire", I want to know why they chose to use that term in particular. I know that my wish for people to define all their terms is a bit repetitive, but it's important. It's exciting to talk about new concepts, but if we're using the same words for different things, real communication becomes extremely difficult.

Wow, this looked a lot shorter when I was writing it. I'll come with something slightly less pedantic next time...or at least, will try my darndest. And oh, meetup on September 19th! Check out the "San Francisco Meetup" thread in AVEN's Meetup Mart for details. You don't have to be an AVEN member to access the information.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Real L Word

In which I see it so you don't have to!

A few weeks ago, I had a cold (yeah, I know you're all dying to know what my sinuses are up to), which meant that I watched a lot more TV than usual. This included quite a few different shows that I probably wouldn't have otherwise seen. The most relevant one to this blog was probably The Real L-Word, on Showtime, which I believe is from the same people who brought us The Fictional L-Word. To my considerable shame, I kept watching the show after my cold got better. (Even though one of the characters was so annoying to me that I fast-forwarded through all her scenes...) I kept hoping that the show would display some potential, but the overall product was trashy and exploitative*, often very boring, and rarely insightful. I found these recaps much more amusing than the actual show. So I wouldn't be surprised if a second season never materialized.

If you haven't figured it out by now, the premise of The Real L-Word is that The L-Word is re-created...but this time, with real people. And it's sort of amazing how closely they've gotten the reality show to adhere to the fictional show. But I ask...what's the point of that? Even The Real World gets to go to a different city every season, but it looks like lesbians are stuck in West Hollywood for the time being. (However, whenever I watch shows set in LA, I always have an urge to dress better, which I suppose is not an awful thing.)

(Let me tell you that in Northern California, we don't get our own anatomically correct palm trees. Dude, I'm outta here.)

Was there anything positive about the show? Well, I can identify one thing. I find that in the media, there is usually a stereotype that lesbian and gay people are not accepted by their families, especially those who aren't white or from American cultural backgrounds. So it was good to see that most of the characters' families did accept them, and were welcoming to their romantic partners.

*(Doin' an asterisk to say that the "scandalous" thing about the show was that people have sex in it, and they are "real people". However, it was pretty PG in comparison to the fictional L-Word. I think there was only one visible sex scene in the whole season, so anyone watching the show for the sex would have been very disappointed. But what was sketchy about it was that the women who did have sex were totally drunk. I don't know how consent on reality shows would work, but I just felt bad for them, like once they sobered up they would have really regretted keeping the lights on. Reading the comments of some non-asexual viewers, I found this idea being echoed.)